I went into the Tal R: Altstadt Girl show at Cheim and Read with very little idea of what I would see. We are always looking at art through the lens of what we have already seen. It’s a basic idea, but I need to remind myself sometimes to start fresh and try and see what’s in front of me.
Tal R makes paintings and drawings of portraits and interiors. They all have well realized interior spaces with rugs, wall papers and art. Most are brightly colored in a pallette that evokes the Fauvism. Some are drab except for a small riot of color. The paintings look as though they could be 80 years old, in style and in the aged look of the surface (pigment and rabbit skin glue). All of the portraits are of women alone in a patterned opulence. Occasionally dressed, usually nude, they seem like relics of a bygone era.
There’s something nagging at me to return to this show; both to write about it and to revisit it. Rather than cast some fully formed critique I am going to express my excitement and doubt. When I see something both pleasing and derivative, cynicism takes hold. I’m hedging I suppose, but I enjoyed this show all the while feeling that I had seen the art before. Tal R’s spaces are rich and lascivious. Some cubist, some fauvist, some expressionist but almost all beautifully executed. The drawings, more specific and realistic, show a group of women on blue and pink papers posing in hotel rooms. How can one not think of sex when the subject, hired sitters, are posed in hotel rooms? Is it more straight forward to show models
Having recently visited the Barnes and the Neue Galerie, I began to compare these to Matisse and Klimt and then had to slam on the breaks. I can’t figure what my response will be past this initial appraisal but why not voice this doubt and make it constructive. In these posts I don’t have to form opinions that serve as judgements on a show or career, though I have.
Tal R makes a beautiful show full of barely dressed women in over-dressed spaces. I am happy this extension of figurative painting exists, even if it feels as though it has already been done. There is an online catalog, which I find incredibly useful after seeing a show. (Note to galleries – please do more of this) So now I look back again and find more that is new and more that is old.
-Jeff Bergman January 2015